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How Can Film Productions Shift Towards Sustainability?

The small steps it takes to have a green shoot

Film camera on film shoot

The green approach

No matter how small a production is, the consideration of having a greener shoot is essential moving forward into the future of filmmaking for both fiction and nonfiction productions, especially with considerations of the SDGs. Multiple organisations I have researched into such as Green Filmmaking, Green Film Shooting, Omni Productions and of course the BFI Network are helping to collate documents and examples of green productions in the media. Their goal is to spread awareness of film sustainability and to help future productions follow in the footsteps of companies already taking the necessary steps to reduce carbon emissions and the film industry’s effect on the climate change crisis.

One of the first crucial projects I came across in my research was the Green Filmmaking foundation commissioned by the Netherlands Film Fund, led by sustainability manager Els Rientjes. The core goal of this commission is to help share critical knowledge about sustainable innovations from the international film industry with other filmmakers around the globe, having a contact page where you can communicate with her directly. The project focuses heavily on the production in areas such as lighting, waste management, transport and catering.

The website here is filled with information and examples with numerous case studies of eco-friendly film productions such as the film Sea of Time directed by Theu Boermans. With this production for example, they partnered with the CO2 compensation program Carbon Karma to plant 580 trees in order to offset the emissions from flying the cast and crew to different locations. On top of sharing insider knowledge of existing productions and stories of modern day filmmakers helping to shape the industry into a more sustainable medium, there are also pages for new filmmakers needing ‘tips and tricks’ for a more eco-friendly production. The page lists information ranging from general production tips such as reducing/recycling paper consumption and working digitally to more in depth issues such as catering and looking for food options that are fair trade or meat free as these are typically less impactful on the environment.

The full breakdown

Similar to Green Film Making, Green Film Shooting provides a platform for spreading information about sustainability in the media industry. Differently to Green Film Making however, this website and organisation delve deeper into the effect that the film industry has on emissions and the climate crisis. Quoting studies such as the European Broadcast Union (EBU) study into carbon emissions, highlighting that 2 percent of worldwide carbon emissions result from information and communication technologies, with the number still on the rise.

With this in mind, this organisation assembles a huge array of media on the topic of sustainability including sustainable operating methods, CO2 calculators and Green Storytelling. Birgit Heidsiek, one of the key organisers of the website and company, gives an insightful TED talk about how productions can be more environmentally-friendly, with examples of modern day hollywood films. This video is one of many TED talks within The Moment is Now conference, a new initiative led by TED to help halve carbon emissions by 2030.

Birgit opens the TEDx talk with some insightful information about the current norm and practices surrounding sustainability and carbon emissions. She mentions that she has attended an event where the only culinary option for crew was meat apart from the salad decoration, completely disregarding any vegetarians and the environmental impact of having a purely meat-based production. Birgit then goes on to explain that most current medium sized productions emit between 650 and 1000 tonnes of carbon emissions, with Hollywood productions emitting several times this amount. To put this into perspective, she explains that one tonne of CO2 emitted accounts for 3 square metres of arctic sea ice disappearing, essentially explaining that for each film production, two football fields worth of ice disappear from the arctic.

Obviously I cannot touch on all the points made by Birgit, but with just these few examples the impact of the film industry on the environment can be seen clearly. Overall this process is a small step towards reducing the carbon emissions of the film industry, and highlights the importance and immediacy that every production should be following this process if we are to reduce the global issue of climate change and reach the target goals of the SDGs.


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